Cooking classes make a great date night

by Regina Verow

Many Maryland establishments are offering a new type of night out on the town — one that includes a cooking lesson.

A date-night cooking class seemed like the perfect thing for Sandy Infante to surprise her husband with as a Valentine's Day gift, especially since the two were trying to eat a little healthier. The Crownsville couple took a class at the Chesapeake School of Cooking in Annapolis and enjoyed it immensely.

"I was a little nervous at first that other people would be better in the kitchen than I was, but everyone was so friendly," Infante says. "We had a great time cooking together and getting to know other couples."

After the evening of prepping and cooking, the Infantes and the other couples in the class enjoyed the meal they had prepared along with a well-earned glass of wine.

"It was a really fun night," she says.

If you're trying to develop your kitchen skills, planning a date with your spouse or looking for an activity for a girl's night out, a cooking class at a local establishment could be just the thing. You can learn some new techniques, bring home tasty recipes and enjoy delicious food in the process.

Here are some of the various places in the area that offer the opportunity for a cooking night out:

CookingClass GroupWA cooking class at The Chesapeake School of CookingThe Chesapeake School of Cooking

Craig Sewell, chef and founder of A Cook's Café and The Chesapeake School of Cooking, is passionate about local and sustainable food, and that's what drives him to teach cooking classes.

"People need to spend more time in the kitchen," he says. "I want people to focus on local farms and seasonal food. For those types of farms to continue to exist, people have to cook."

Sewell's classes are hands-on, fun and informative. Students will learn not only about the tools and techniques of the trade but also where the food comes from. Chef Sewell teaches many of the classes himself, but he occasionally brings in other specialty chefs as well.

Classes typically include preparing an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert and eating the meal when it's complete.

Classes typically run $75-$85 per person including instruction and the meal.
911 Commerce St., Annapolis
Visit acookscafe.com for a class schedule and call 410-266-1511 to register.

Whole Foods

Classes at Whole Foods in Annapolis are taught in The Culinary and Community Center, a glassed-off gourmet-looking professional kitchen and intimate dining room at the front of the store.

Whole Foods hosts at least two different themed hands-on classes each month taught by chefs from around the region as well as experts from the store. Past classes include a Romantic Couples Cooking Class, Southern Vegetarian and Flavors of Maghreb: Northern African Cooking.CookingClassWF hands cookingW

Culinary coordinator René Acosta says his goal for each class is to "engage, teach and delight each guest."

Some classes offer sit-down eating experiences while others are more of a taste as you go meal. The center often partners with Bin 211 for wine pairings.

Different classes are offered depending on the season and teaching chef, and prices generally run $35-$50 per person.
200 Harker Place, Annapolis
Visit wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/annapolis for details, class schedule and to register.

La Tasca

For a Latin-themed cooking evening, check out La Tasca's paella-making class. This Spanish-style restaurant with locations in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., starts off classes with a glass of sangria and some appetizers before getting down to the fun of cooking.

Working in groups of four at cooking stations, students make paella, customizing it with optional ingredients supplied to each group. The class, overseen by one of La Tasca's house chefs, culminates with students enjoying the dinner they prepared. Tapas are served alongside the paella and coffee and dessert are also offered. All guests receive a special gift to take home.

The paella-making class is $75 per person.
201 E. Pratt St., Baltimore; 722 7th St. NW, Washington, D.C.
Visit latascausa.com for a class schedule and to register.

Anne Arundel Community College

Anne Arundel Community College offers a variety of non-credit cooking classes each semester. Many are offered as one-time, evening classes — making them perfect for a date or girls' night, although most are "tasting classes" and don't end with a meal or a wine pairing.

A "Cooking for Couples" two-night class is offered Saturdays, April 11 and 18. One-night cooking classes on the spring schedule include Asian BBQ, Sweet and Savory Crepes, Dim Sum and others. These classes can fill up quickly, so early sign up is recommended.

One-night classes cost on average $67. The two-night class is $127.
Most classes at the Arnold Campus, 101 College Parkway. Some are offered at the Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute, 7438 Gov. Ritchie Highway, Glen Burnie.
For spring classes, visit aacc.edu click on the "Spring 2015 Noncredit Schedule of Classes." Culinary arts are on page 11 and 12.

Photo on right above by Martel Kelleher/Whole Foods

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